Bringing Your Family with You

It is not always easy being away from home for one or two months or even as much as 18. It can be harder still if you are away from your family for part or all of that time. Fortunately, most visa types to the US have companion visas that your family members can apply for. For most J-1 visa holders*, family members can apply for what is known as a J-2 Visa, for spouses and dependents. Make sure to check with your program sponsor to ensure there are no restrictions on bringing your family.

Who is the J-2 visa for?

The J-2 visa program is only intended for:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • The families of J-1 visa holders in all but the following J-1 Visa Categories: Irish Work and Travel (Intern Category), Au Pair, Camp Counselor, Secondary School Student, Summer Work and Travel.

What can my family do while they are in the US on their J-2 visas?

  • Apply for Employment (Work) Authorization– Your spouse or dependents can work if they have filed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (EAD) and their application has been approved.
    • This application can take 2-3 months. They must file the EAD before they can apply for a Social Security Number.
    • Dependents with Employment Authorization may only work until you complete your program, or the end date listed on the EAD car, whichever is first.
  • Study – They do not need to apply for an F-1 Visa or change to F-1 status to be able to study in the US. Keep in mind, that their visa lasts only until your program ends. If their studies continue beyond your program end date, they will need to end early or secure another visa to finish.

Sponsor Requirements

Application costs and requirements will vary by sponsor, but at minimum expect to have ready J-2 applicant will need:

  • Valid Passport
  • Health Insurance that meets the same requirements as yours
  • Copies of any current or previous US visas
  • Proof of financial support for each additional family member

Visa Steps

  • Each J-2 will have their own DS-2019 form issued by the sponsor
  • J-2’s do NOT need to register separately in SEVIS and make the $180 payment
  • Your family can apply for their visas at the same, or after you in what is known as “Follow to Join”. They will attend a separate interview
  • Children can accompany parents for their interviews
  • Your family may NOT enter the US before you

Other Important Information:

  • Your family must live at the same residence as you during your program
  • Each family member must have insurance for the duration of your program, even if they do not intent to stay to the end
  • If you are subject to the 2 Year Foreign Residency Requirement, your family members will also be subject
  • Family members will also need travel validation


*Not every category of J-1 visa supports J-1 applications. Notable exceptions include: Irish Work and Travel (Intern Category), Au Pair, Camp Counselor, Secondary School Student, Summer Work and Travel.